Social distancing has been hard on all of us. We feel more isolated than ever. This feeling of isolation can become particularly prevalent during the winter months when it is cold and dark outside. In this post, I have compiled my tips for getting through these cold winter months.
People have been putting up their Christmas decorations much earlier than previous years. We feel happy when we see the bright lights and multi-coloured decoration. It is something that reminds us of the festive nature of the season, something which has become more important this year. Putting up decorations is a great way to lift your mood and stay positive. So put up your Christmas decoration as soon as possible and leave it until February. If you do not celebrate Christmas, you can put up any decoration and string light that brings you joy. When the weather or social distancing is preventing you from going outside as much as you would wish, make you inside an environment cozy and bright.
The winter season can often feel dark and cold, but it brings a magical feeling with it as well. It is the season of Christmas, Chanukkah, and other holidays and winter festivities. It is no coincidence we celebrate so many holidays during winter. They are meant to lift our spirits and to make us feel happy to be indoors through decorations and indoor activities. So focus on the positive aspects of winter and try, now more than ever, to incorporate those positive aspects into your life. Take some time to think. What do you like about winter? Is it drinking hot chocolate? Sitting warm and cozy in front of the fireplace (or a screen of a fireplace on your TV or computer)? Is it sitting on the couch under a warm blanket? Playing board games with your family? Make a list of what brings you joy during winter and make sure to indulge in those activities.
Cooking, for me, is a big part of the season. One of my favourite winter recipes is baked apples. Partly because they are very tasty and partly because my mum always makes them during winter. Like many other students studying abroad, I am not going home for the winter holiday due to quarantine. So I took a crack at making my mum’s baked apples for the first time. I loved it. I put on some holiday music and went to work. So for this recipe, you take any sour apples. I used golden delicious, but there are better options. Remove the pits and peel them. Cut them into long, thin slices, about 2 cm in width. Lay the apple pieces on a plate with sugar and cinnamon (I also used cocoa powder). Put some unsalted butter in a frying pan. Bake the apples in the frying pan on medium heat until they start getting soft. The scent of apple and cinnamon already puts me in a festive mood. If you have any cooking tradition during winter, make that! Anything that makes you feel happy and cheerful.
During the winter months, you will likely get less vitamin D and less exercise. Many people also experience dry skin due to the cold weather. So it is important to put a greater emphasis on self-care during this season. Put in the extra effort to apply cream and moisturizer, to eat more food that is rich in vitamin D and to exercise at home. Not only does this help you physical health, but your mental health as well. We feel happier when we are physically healthy and when we know that we are taking care of ourselves. Self-care with regards to mental health is important too. During these months, and especially under the current circumstances, feelings of loneliness and depression may become more prevalent. Meditating, breathing exercises, participating in activities that you enjoy, and staying in contact (online, over the phone, or even through letters and cards) with your friends and family can help. It is also a good idea to regularly “scan” your body and thoughts for negative feelings and tension. Staying aware of your mental state in this way can help you ask for help if needed at the right time, or help you know when you need to spend more time taking care of yourself.
This is a great time to take on a new project. You will have more time during the winter holiday to do those things that you have been putting off. Get creative. Have you been too busy to paint, write, code, make videos, knit etc.? Now that you are warm and cozy at home with some extra time, you can busy yourself with creative pursuits. Maybe you want to learn a new skill. Or maybe you want to thoroughly clean your house. A great time to do this is before you put up your decorations. Projects like these will not only distract you and keep you busy, but they are also fun and fill you with a feeling of accomplishment. So get to it!
The cold, grim weather, the restrictions on the way you can celebrate the holidays, and the dampening on the festive mood brought on by the pandemic all make the winter months extra challenging this year. But by improving your environment, incorporating the things that make winter magical for you, taking some extra time for self-care, and doing the things you have been waiting to do can make the season more enjoyable and less lonely.
Written by Merel Melchers